Holding steady.

Today’s Chance of a Gonzales Departure: 50 percent

(Previously: 50 percent)

Alberto Gonzales is acting like a man who wants to save himself. On Wednesday, he lunched with four Republican senators (Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, and Jeff Sessions of Alabama). On Thursday, he went to St. Louis to meet with the region’s U.S. attorneys, the first of a series of meeting to reassure the nation’s remaining prosecutors. It’s the Al Tour. Gonzo-palooza.

Will it draw screaming fans? No, but maybe it will distract them from the bad news for the AG today. Margaret Chiara, the fired U.S. attorney from Michigan, has started publicly challenging the Justice Department’s account of her firing, saying that she was pushed out to make way for another lawyer, not because she was a bad manager. There’s nothing scandalous about Chiara’s version—these are patronage appointments, after all—except that it makes the DoJ account look like a lie. Also, the blogs continue to train a spotlight on the 18-day “gap” (DoJ prefers “lull”) in the e-mail trail about the eight U.S. attorney firings. The Bush administration turned over only four e-mail chains between Nov. 15, 2006 and Dec. 4, 2006. The firings occurred on Dec. 7.

DoJ insists they’ve turned over everything they’ve got that’s relevant. Which serves only to fuel speculation that “the really interesting email traffic in this period would have been within the White House,” as Paul Kiel put it on TPM Muckraker.

Then there’s the potential congressional testimony of Kyle Sampson, the former Gonzales aide who resigned earlier this month over his role in the scandal. Senate judiciary committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has invited Sampson to speak next week—on Thursday, to be precise. Will Sampson talk, and if he does, what will he say about the boss for whom he just took an enormous fall?

Meanwhile, the New York Times gives us a new reason to care about whether Gonzales stays or goes: Apparently, he’s the one stopping the closure of Guantanamo Bay, a move Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reportedly support. According to the Times, Gates wants to transfer the hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo to U.S. soil. Gonzales wants to leave them where they are. “Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” said an unnamed senior administration official who still hopes to see the base shut down. Yes, let’s see.

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